Toe Fractures: Why Some Are Serious and Others Aren't

Maybe you stub your toe on the door frame or perhaps something heavy falls on your foot — in either case, you may incur a fracture. But not all fractures are equal, and one may be far more serious than the other. Depending upon the location and size of the fracture, there are times when good home care will suffice and others when you need the expert care of the podiatry team at Neuhaus Foot and Ankle.

Here are a few tips to help guide you when you’ve injured your toe.

The anatomy of your feet

To better understand toe fractures, it’s helpful to review the anatomy of your forefeet, which include your toes and the bones that lead up to your toes (metatarsals).

Your feet contain about one-quarter of the bones in your body — 26 in each foot for a total of 52 between your two feet. Of this large number, your forefoot contains five metatarsal bones and 14 phalanges, or toe bones (these bones also cause bunions). Each of your toes contains three phalanges except for your big toe, which only contains two.

Defining a toe fracture

Toe fractures can be tricky to define since some may separate metatarsal and toe fractures. For this discussion, we’re going to include the forefoot and toes since the two are directly linked.

Diving deeper, there are several categories for fractures in these bones, including:

Please note that any time you incur an open fracture, you should seek our help as soon as possible as these wounds can be serious.

Beneath the surface

Fractures that aren’t readily visible can be tough to figure out. If you’ve had a trauma to your forefoot, you’ll feel immediate pain. If that pain turns into a dull ache and is accompanied by bruising, discoloration, and swelling in the first 24 hours after the trauma, the odds are good that there’s internal damage. This is especially true if you have trouble bearing weight on your foot.

If, however, the problem is confined to one of your smaller toes, we recommend the RICE method during your first 24 hours:

You can also use the buddy-taping method to stabilize your toe by taping it to the healthy toe next to it. If you’re still experiencing problems after 2-3 days, we recommend that you come to see us.

If you suspect you’ve broken your big toe, or even your second toe, these appendages can be more troublesome given their roles in supporting your weight and enabling balance. In these cases, we urge you to come to see us so that we can evaluate the injury and use diagnostic imaging to take a look at what’s going on inside your toe.

As well, if the problem seems to lie in one of your longer metatarsal bones, we also recommend that you visit us so that we can determine the extent of the fracture.

With our expert fracture care, we can set you up with the proper bracing and instructions for recovery.

If you have any questions about whether your toe or forefoot fracture needs medical care, contact one of our locations in Hermitage, Brentwood, Nashville, Mount Juliet, Waverly, Smyrna, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, or Lebanon, Tennessee.

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